As I boarded the plane from Barcelona to Frankfurt, I quickly glanced at my ticket: 49D. “Great, I’m an aisle!” I thought to myself excitedly. I vaguely recalled choosing aisle seats for my flights and was pleased that so far, I was correct in my recollection.
46, 47, 48, 49. As I approached my seat, the man in front of me placed his carry-on in the overhead compartment and proceeded to take 49D.
“I’m sorry, I think you’re in my seat. 49D?” I said, trying to keep any hint of annoyance out of my voice. It was a simple mistake. Anyone could have made it.
“No, I’m 49D,” he responded perplexed.
I inwardly rolled my eyes as I double-checked my boarding pass: 49F. Whoops.
“Oh sorry, I was wrong. I’m the window,” I said with my head down, slightly embarrassed at my attitude. I proceeded to scoot past him into my seat.
“Are you a fan of the aisle too?” he asked.
“No, not really,” I lied. “As long as I don’t have to sit in the middle.” I gave a pleasant smile and proceeded to put my ear buds in when he turned to me and continued to conversation.
“So were you in Barcelona for business or pleasure?” he asked inquisitively. He looked to be in his mid-forties and I again inwardly rolled my eyes thinking, “Here we go. Let’s get ready to dodge a creep.”
“Pleasure. I was here with my family for vacation. What about you?” I had already made up my mind that I would be cordial but not give him much to work with in hopes that conversation would die down. I would also take any chance of silence to quickly shove my headphones into my ears and pretend to be listening to something important. It was a great plan. And… break!
“I’m here on business. I’m in sales and travel a lot for work. We have an office in Barcelona but this was my first time. How did you enjoy it? I was on the phone with my wife last night telling her how beautiful it was and what a great time I had here.”
A wife! I let out a sigh of relief. This guy was actually just friendly. How refreshing.
The next two hours flew by and were filled with genuinely warm conversation. He shared how he and his wife met, how they have chosen to raise their teenage son, and he also shared stories of life in the tech world. I shared stories about how I chose physical therapy, some of my goals, what it was like growing up playing competitive sports, and my family dynamic. He told me my parents did a fine job raising me and must be proud. I told him I would pass the message along. (Which reminds me that I should do that soon!)
Once the plane landed, he put out his hand. “Cindy, it has been a pleasure conversing with you these past couple of hours. Thank you for sharing your time with me.”
I put out my hand for a warm handshake. “Likewise. Thank you. I enjoyed our talk.” I truly had. Not once did I reach for my earbuds.
And that was that.
It was a simple conversation. Nothing deep or life changing was discovered. We didn’t solve world peace or find a cure for hunger and odds are that I will never see that gentleman again in my life.
But there was something genuine and warm about him and engaging in conversation on a basic human level with him for two hours added value to my day and that is a beautiful thing.
That conversation reminded me how the little things really can have a lot of value. A genuine smile. An act of kindness. A compassionate conversation. Sometimes I can get so caught up in my life goals and my future that I forget these small things.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12
The heart we put on is not a heart of drive, intelligence, success, and goals. It is one of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. These qualities are seen in our interactions with each other as humans. They are the qualities that are seen in the small things. They are easy to forget and I know that I oftentimes put too much value on success and goals and forget what kind of heart I should have on.
My hope is that I can see the small opportunities. And I pray that when I get caught up in myself, God’s grace will lovingly remind me of the value of a conversation on a plane.